Virtual Meetings: Best Practices
When we posted best practices for live advisory board meetings, we received a few comments suggesting that live meetings are becoming obsolete in favor of virtual engagements. In our experience, the decision is based on a number of factors including meeting objectives, timing, budget, and advisor availability. Our recommendation is to try and ensure that any inaugural meetings, particularly for Steering Committees or User Meetings (when members will be working together on an ongoing basis) happen in a live setting. There is no substitute for time spent together live in terms of building a rapport to work toward common goals. A live meeting also provides more time to allow for the fine balance between cooperative exploration and self-reflection – elements that advisors claim are essential to a robust meeting.
Virtual meetings are more important than ever. Over a period of time, subsequent virtual meetings keep members and advisors engaged, which makes them feel more valued. Also, when unforeseen challenges arise, we don’t have the luxury of several weeks to plan and execute a productive live meeting. We may need to convene key stakeholders quickly and collect their insights on issues more urgently. Regardless of the circumstances, our best practices for stellar virtual meetings include:
Since participants do not have to travel to a virtual meeting, there may be a temptation to schedule a virtual meeting that lasts several hours. We recommend resisting this temptation! Ideally limit virtual meetings to two hours during a time that does not interfere with HCP office hours to see patients. This will make attendance and participation more doable, not to mention more cost effective in terms of honoraria.
· Professional facilitation
A successful virtual meeting is an efficient one. Professional moderators can ensure that all of the agenda is covered and that discussions stay on topic. It is also key that all participants are contributing throughout the engagement and are not just “dialed in” to the meeting. Clearly communicating the meeting objectives as well as the agenda topics and related activities helps set expectations for a productive meeting.
An established best practice for live meetings is to minimize didactic presentations and incorporate exercises and workshops for a more dynamic engagement. This approach should also be applied to virtual meetings and can be done several ways depending on the platform. For example, we like to incorporate voting functions and intervals where challenges are presented and participants have a few minutes to work independently before presenting their findings to the entire group.
The use of flip charts and sticky notes is an important tool in adult learning and can also be implemented creatively in virtual meetings. We recommend having team members capture key comments and “parking lot” items on slides separate from the PowerPoint showfile that can be displayed intermittently throughout the agenda. Participants can verbally comment and team members can add virtual sticky notes (i.e., colored boxes) to capture everything.
There are many platforms available to host an effective virtual meeting. Decisions are often based on pricing, user friendliness, and the number of participants allowed. Many of our clients have established agreements with companies such as Adobe Connect and we make sure we are comfortable with all elements of the platform including troubleshooting in advance of the virtual meeting. For larger meetings, we have been impressed with PANDO, which hosts up to 60 attendees interacting in real time with in-studio faculty.
When appropriate, we add bespoke elements to further make the virtual meeting memorable. For example, at a recent virtual advisory board we held at dinner time, participants were given a code so they could order dinner for free on seamless.com. Ultimately, the convenience and impact of the virtual meeting should leave a lasting impression so that attendees will have the desire to participate again (and again).